You’ve done it again. You’ve given away a free track from your latest album. It’s on your website. You’ve talked about it on Facebook. Job done, you think. Well think again. There’s no doubt about it. Free music is a powerful marketing tool. However, the music industry has become so over-saturated with free music that we’ve become desensitized to the process of consuming, promoting, and thinking about the importance of free music. This age-old debate has become, well, old.
Entries in strategy (10)
Having been hearing about the growing success of the band Pomplamoose many times now, I decided to check them out and listen to their music/interviews and watch some of their videos to get a feel for who they were-both as artists, and see what we could learn from this independent band who have carved out a living with STRICTLY their MUSIC, using a 99% web-based business model. Listening to them in the first interview with Tech Crunch’s Andrew Keen, Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn answered several very basic questions, of which, although the interview could have been hosted better to get down to some more insightful questions, the resulting insight I continue to find the more I learn about this powerhouse duo remains consistent with the very simple mantra this band has so very successfully modeled for us as independent musicians in our brave new music business. Pomplamoose, who have now turned down all of the “big three” major labels – are in fact making enough money to live in a fully paid for house, primarily off iTunes revenue, and don’t see the need OR the strategic advantage to sign with a major record label. The bottom line is that Record labels today - are more like general contractors who hire other companies to do things for the artist, (when, with a little knowledge and ambition one could go hire that company directly) and decision makers for those who don’t want or don’t know where to start with building their own business model. Perhaps not as extreme as “the powerful praying on the ignorant and powerless,” but something close to that, is what perpetuates most of the unknown yet talented and intelligent signed acts that you’ve never heard of.
So this is it. The final installment in my series on mobile marketing for independent musicians (sob!). We’ve discussed the reality. We’ve established the importance of strategy. Now it’s time to talk tools! So exactly what tools are out there for the average, hard- working DIY musician? Are the all-singing, all-dancing mobile marketing campaigns of established artists totally out of reach?
I’m filling in on bass for a band that’s gearing up to release their new CD. When filling in for a band, I try to take a back seat on the band’s business. However, I sometimes just cannot keep my big mouth shut. In this case, the guys were discussing details of their upcoming CD release, and I had to chime in. Here’s a rant based on both my experience with my former band and quite a few drunken conversations with various bands over the years.
I used to be afraid of always talking about my music to people, whether it was online or offline. Mainly because I was afraid I would annoy and lose them. I found myself in a dilemma of sorts because the promotion of my music was inconsistent as result. And inconsistency doesn’t breed success. So I had to check myself. I was taking this music thing too personally. I needed to step back and be a bit more objective with my career. I needed to think like a businessman. After all, I’ve spent 6 years building my own marketing company.
As I understood business, when you have a good product, the main task at hand is to figure out ways to let your target audience know it exists and raise your product’s profile in their lives. That is your focus. You are the owner. You are the marketer. The success of that product is in your hands. And, being in music makes no difference. If I ever want to make this passion my “9 to 5”, I had better pull things together. What I’ve found is that it took just as much creativity to be in business as it did to make music. Both requires you to take what is seemingly nothing and make it into something. Except when it comes to the business side of things, your job is to make your music, which at the start is nothing in the mind of a consumer, become something meaningful to that consumer. And the key to great marketing is one word: frequency.
One of my greatest frustrations with respect to marketing has been that while I speak often about human’s predisposition to share, we’ve yet — in the entertainment realm — developed a way to encourage/reward sharing/sharers.
A bit of background. It was when music/books/movies/etc. went from being objects (analog) to being information (digital) that people could finally satisfy their hard-wired impulse to share with no downside.
Prior to this, if I wanted to share an album/book/DVD with you, when I gave it to you I was deprived of my copy — you win, I half lose/half win. Post the shift to information, when I share my digital versions with you, I still keep my copy — we both win.
Peter Drucker stated, “Long-range planning is necessary precisely because we cannot forecast.” According to this statement, planning is essential to any enterprise so that the right decisions can be made when the environment changes. Music enterprises must be able to strategize and plan in order to create value for its customers. Strategizing and planning allows the enterprise to create its goals in its mission and vision for all levels of the hierarchy to strive for.
For example, Motown Records’ mission statement was, when it was first created, to “unite and bring people together through music.” A mission statement, as being part of planning, was created for Motown Records so that all artists, publishers, employees, and presidents of Motown Records would make decisions based on “uniting and bringing people together.” Knowledge of the goals and direction of the enterprise are necessary to know throughout the entire enterprise so that everyone knows what decisions are to be made and which are the right ones. Motown Records brought value to its customers that shared the same ideal in music: the desire to unite people. Planning the mission and vision statement encompasses all decision-making for music enterprises. After knowing the enterprise’s plan, any employee or superior would have to ask, “Does this decision align with our core values and work towards our vision as a music enterprise?” Customers will value an enterprise that is consistent with its plan to create that value for its customers.
At last count, if I’m correct, I’ve attended the SXSW Conference at least seventeen times, and on many of those visits I have been very grateful for the opportunity to speak on a panel. When Brian Zisk, a co-founder of the SanFran MusicTech conference, invited me to speak again on a panel in December, and also to join him on his panel at this year’s SXSW, I gave pause.
As we approach 2010 and the new decade, I decided to revisit this essay, one I originally wrote and posted in June of 2008. For much of this decade, social media as an idea, term or simply a phrase, has been willfully bandied around by agencies, social media “consultants,” PR folks et al, as if it was the cure-all for any brands’ online presence. White noise engulfed common sense; nature, particularly how humans behave in society, was hardly ever considered as marketers embraced what they considered, the white hot future wrought by technology. That lack of consideration of human behavior on the web when it came to an online brand strategy, I believe, was an early mistake that really muddied the waters. This post is in reference to one I wrote here earlier this month - Dear Musicians - Please Be Brilliant or Get Out of The Way. Simply put, it’s my argument that social media or social networking are very natural activities for us, both online and off. Therefore a musician or musician’s digital strategy requires an understanding of how people actually use the web. Here’s the link to the post - Anthropology, Technology, The Social Web and Advertising
In part ii of my 1,000 true fans series I chose to interview my friend Matthew Ebel. I have known Matthew for a few years because he runs in the same geeky podcasting circles that I proudly run in. Matthew is the type of artist I refer to in my book as a “Builder” meaning Matthew is constantly pushing his career forward using not only musical innovation but also technology.
What I find most striking about this interview is the fact that Matthew makes 26.3% of his net income from just 40 hard- core fans.
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(Updated January 13, 2016)